The Top 12 Point Guards in College Basketball

For a while now, ever since early NBA departures became the norm, college basketball has been a guard-dominated sport.  You don’t have to look any further than last year’s champion Duke team that was led by three stars on the perimeter and just relied on their big men to rebound and defend.  And in a sport that is increasingly dominated by freshmen and sophomores, it’s telling that this list of Top 12 Point Guards consists of 10 upperclassmen.

Not surprisingly, the already-crucial point guard position has become even more important.  Most point guards in college basketball used to just focus on their passing and let the other guys handle the scoring load.  Now, with so much of the elite talent in the backcourt, point men have to set up their teammates and find their own shot.  And, of course, they have to be able to stop their counter-part from pulling off those dual tasks on the other end of the court.

With that in mind, we present the top point guards in college hoops this year.  We’re trying to limit the list to guys that are truly point guards, meaning that some top players that spend a lot of their time playing off the ball (K-State’s Jacob Pullen, Pitt’s Ashton Gibbs, and Nova’s Corey Fisher, for example) didn’t qualify.

12) Juan Fernandez, Jr., Temple:  This list has been shaken up by what’s happened in these first couple weeks of the season, and Fernandez is lucky to hang on to a spot on this list after his abysmal performance in the Old Spice Classic this week.  Though he’s had a rough start, he showed last year that he’s a big time player.  He’s a very crafty and creative player that generally has a good idea of what to do with the ball.  He can knock down perimeter shots and finds ways to get into the lane and get the ball into the basket despite his limited quickness.

11) Dairese Gary, Sr., New Mexico:  Full disclosure: I’ve never seen this guy play.  Mountain West teams are never on TV, which is a shame because it’s been a really good league the past couple of years, this year included.  Gary came into his senior year already closing in on 400 assists, and he averaged 13 points last year for a team that went 29-4 and earned a 3-seed in the tournament.  I’ll have to let the experts and the stats do the talking, but it seems like he belongs on this list somewhere.

Battle's headed for 2,000 points

10) Talor Battle, Sr., Penn State:  There haven’t been too many wins, but its still been a pretty incredible career in Happy Valley for Battle.  He’s less than 6 feet tall, he’s not a great shooter, and he’s not even all that quick, yet somehow he’ll probably score 2,000 points in his career.  And remember, he’s playing most of his games against Big Ten defenses.  He’s also somehow managed to average over 5 rebounds a game over the last two seasons.  This is just a guy that knows how to play the game and does all the little things, along with scoring 18 a game.

9) Isaiah Thomas, Jr., Washington:  If you’re going to be a small point guard, it probably doesn’t hurt to have the same name as arguably the best small point guard to ever play the game.  Let’s just hope this Isaiah isn’t planning a career in an NBA front office.  This little guy (listed at 5-8) definitely reminds you of former Huskie Nate Robinson.  He can get up and dunk it, and though you expect a guy his size to be mainly a distributor, he definitely looks to score it.  In fact, he’s on pace to become Washington’s all-time leading scorer.  He had a chance to get higher on this list, but with a disappointing showing at the Maui Invitational, 9th is probably generous.

8. Malcolm Delaney, Sr., Virginia Tech:  Like Thomas, Delaney is a point that looks to score first.  Unlike Thomas, though, he looks like a scorer, at 6-3 and 190 lbs.  Delaney actually led the ACC in scoring last year (20.2) and was 1st Team All-Conference.  He’s not a great long-distance shooter, but he’s tough to handle off the dribble, can hit from mid-range, and lives at the free throw line.  And even while putting up 20 a game, he still managed to average 4.5 assists a year ago.  He’s had a rough start to this season, averaging over 6 turnovers, and he’ll have to get better at taking care of the ball if he wants to play on the next level.

7) Kevin Anderson, Sr., Richmond:  The reigning A-10 Player of the Year spent a lot of time at 2-guard last year, but the point job is his now.  It doesn’t seem to be bringing him down so far, as he put up 28 points in an upset of Purdue on Saturday.  Also, his assist/turnover ratio has doubled so far, from 1.1 last year to 2.2.  If he can keep that ratio in that range and still average the 18 points a game he did last year, there’s no reason he won’t repeat as the Player of the Year and take his team back to the NCAA tournament.

6) Brandon Knight, Fr., Kentucky:  This is the fourth straight year that John Calipari has a freshman starting at the point and the last three were some guys named Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, and John Wall.  Rose and Evans won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award and Wall is favored to do the same this year.  So, I guess it’s a disappointment that Knight is only checking in at 6th on this list.  If this were a list based on NBA potential, he’d probably be higher, but he’s definitely played like a freshman at times so far, averaging almost 5 turnovers.  Still, he’s lightning quick, makes some nice passes, and he’s probably a better shooter at this point in his career than any of the three guys he’s following.  He’s very skinny, but with some added weight and seasoning, he’ll be yet another lottery pick point guard for Calipari.

5) Chris Wright, Sr., Georgetown:  Wright is sort of the opposite of Knight.  He’s not all that quick and never really wows anybody, but he’s rock solid all-around and has probably been underrated to this point in his career.  He’s very much in control of the Hoya offense and offers a nice mix of scoring and distributing.  He averaged 15 points last year and though his scoring is down a bit at the start this year, he’s averaged 7 assists through the first six G-Town games.

4) Kyrie Irving, Fr., Duke:  When you’re the top-rated point guard coming out of high school and you’re stepping into the starting line-up for the defending champs, there will obviously be a lot of pressure, and Irving seems to be handling it well so far.  This is nitpicking, but I haven’t seen elite quickness from him, and he has an easier job than someone like Knight because he’s playing alongside some really good seniors instead of other young guys.  That being said, he’s averaging 5.8 assists to just 2.3 turnovers and shooting 49% from the field and 40% on 3’s.  Against a top-notch defensive team in Kansas St. he put up 17 points and 6 assists.  He seems to be the complete package in terms of skill, basketball IQ, and physical tools, even if not an absolute elite athlete.  He could possibly be #1 on this list by March.

3) Demetri McCamey, Sr., Illinois:  McCamey is the best distributor on this list but he also has a well-rounded game.  He averaged 7 assists a game last year and has raised that so far this year to 7.7, with just 2 turnovers per game, giving him a pretty ridiculous 3.9/1 ratio.  He also averaged 15 points a game last year and it looks like he’s improved his mediocre shooting, hitting 13 of 27 3’s so far.  He’s got a wide-body but is still surprisingly quick and he’s so big and strong for a point guard, which he really uses to his advantage.  An underrated player and maybe the best “pure” point man in the nation this year.


Walker is on top, but will he still be come March?

2) Kalin Lucas, Sr., Michigan State: Considering Lucas was the Big Ten Player of the Year two years ago as a sophomore, he probably should be #1 on this list, or even in the NBA, but a somewhat disappointing junior year has kept him from the top spot.  He’s an absolute jet with the ball, and it looks like the Achilles tendon tear he suffered in the tournament in March is fully healed.  He had a terrible game when they lost to UConn in Maui, but he came right back and put the team on his back, scoring 29, to beat Washington the next night.  If he can get his assist/turnover ratio back up to where it was two years ago and keep shooting it well like he has so far this year, he’s definitely an All-American candidate, and maybe the best point guard in the country.

1) Kemba Walker, Jr., Connecticut:  It’s safe to say that Walker would not have topped this list before the season started, but an electrifying start to the season has put him at the front of any conversation about the best point guards in the nation.  He’s averaging 30 points a game, including 42 against Vermont, 30 in a defeat of then-2nd ranked Michigan St, and 29 in a defeat of highly-ranked Kentucky.  Walker is a similar player to Lucas.  Undersized by NBA standards (6-1), but incredibly quick with the ball and an excellent passer.  In his first two years at UConn, he looked like the proto-typical New York City point guard:  a relentless penetrator and tenacious defender that couldn’t make a jump shot.  Well, at least through 5 games, he looks like he may now have a jump shot.  If that is the case, it hasn’t come out of nowhere.  He improved his 3-point percentage from 27%  his freshman year to 34% last year.  If he can shoot it at 40% this year, like he has so far, he is the best point guard in the country, and probably an NBA lottery pick next summer.  Adding to the impressiveness of his start is the fact that he’s the only established player on a team that is full of freshmen and a couple sophomores.  He came into the year knowing that the team would go as far as he could take them, and he’s stepped right up to that pressure with the best November of any player in the country, leading his team to a very surprising win in the Maui Invitational.               

Honorable Mentions:

  • Josh Selby, Kansas:  Freshman will become eligible in December and will most likely deserve a spot somewhere on this list.
  • Durand Scott, Miami: Another NYC point man
  • Maalik Wayns, Villanova: Has taken over for Scottie Reynolds
  • Ronald Nored, Butler: The top defensive PG in the nation
  • Oscar Bellfield, UNLV: Will challenge Gary for best PG in the tough Mountain West
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2 Responses to The Top 12 Point Guards in College Basketball

  1. bry says:

    nice work on the list, Doogan. if you had just told me that Anderson, Delaney, and Thomas wouldn’t even crack the top 6, i would have told you you were crazy, but looking at the list, it’s hard to argue with any of them, so i think you nailed it.

    glad you mentioned Durand Scott. he gets lost on a forgettable team, but he could be really good. also, i love the love given to the Mountain West. FoxSports-Pacific carries a lot of their games, so I’ve seen my fair share of MWC games, and I believe it was the most underrated conference in the country last year, and may be again this year.

  2. Doogan says:

    Thanks. I definitely shuffled the order around a bunch of times, so I could definitely see arguments to move guys up or down. Delaney and Thomas made it an easier decision to put them down on the list cause they both had pretty bad starts to the season. Plus, I was giving some extra credit for guys that are more “pure” points, which is why Wright gets the edge over Anderson, Delaney, Thomas, or are more shoot-first guys. Also was leaning toward McCamey at #1 early on for that reason, but settled on 3.

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